Jonathan Eisen takes issue with this chart, which claims that mosquitoes kill more humans annually than any other animal. He notes that many “of the animals, including mosquitoes, are on the list are there because of the diseases they transmit:”
If we follow that logic, which I am fine with, then we need to add a whole lot of deaths to the “human” column. After all, humans transmit a whole heck of a lot of diseases that kill humans. One source I found has the following #s
- HIV/AIDS: 1.78 million per year
- Tuberculosis: 1.34 million per year
- Flu: 250-500,000 per year
- HAIs: >100,000
- Syphilis: 100,000
- Measles: 600,000
and many many many more. The totals are probably greater than 5 million per year that are killed by infectious diseases where it was humans who transmitted the agent to other humans. Way more than the mosquitoes.
Brad Plumer adds:
[T]he broader thrust of Bill Gates’ post was still correct — and vitally important.
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are a major public-health crisis that don’t get nearly enough attention. (Shark attacks, by contrast, often dominate headlines but only kill about 10 people per year.) Gates is doing invaluable work calling attention to the situation. And my colleague Dylan Matthews has a great list of cheap, cost-effective ways to tamp down on mosquito-borne diseases. But deadlier than humans? Not quite.
Relatedly, Ed Yong worries about the spread of drug-resistant malaria, which is spread by mosquitos:
Over the last century, almost every frontline antimalarial drug—chloroquine, sulfadoxine, pyrimethamine—has become obsolete because of defiant parasites that emerged from western Cambodia. From this cradle of resistance, the parasites gradually spread west to Africa, causing the deaths of millions. Malaria already kills around 660,000 people every year, and most of them are African kids. If artemisinin resistance reached that continent, it would be catastrophic, especially since there are no good replacement drugs on the immediate horizon.
[Malaria expert François] Nosten thinks that without radical measures, resistance will spread to India and Bangladesh. Once that happens, it will be too late. Those countries are too big, too populous, too uneven in their health services to even dream about containing the resistant parasites. Once there, they will inevitably spread further. He thinks it will happen in three years, maybe four. “Look at the speed of change on this border. It’s exponential. It’s not going to take 10 or 15 years to reach Bangladesh. It’ll take just a few. We have to do something before it’s too late.”